upils should not have to isolate after being in contact with a Covid-19 case in the classroom, an expert has said.
Sir Andrew Pollard, who helped to create the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine and is a professor of paediatric infection at the University of Oxford, said that as long as children are not unwell themselves they should continue to be in school getting their education.
But he said those with symptoms should still be tested for the virus.
It comes after a record 1.13 million children in England were out of school for Covid-related reasons towards the end of term.
The figures include 994,000 children self-isolating due to a possible contact with a Covid-19 case, 48,000 pupils with a confirmed case of coronavirus, and 33,300 with a suspected case.
Sir Andrew told the All Party Parliamentary Group on Coronavirus: “Given that children have relatively mild infection compared to adults, apart from the exceptions who are largely going to be vaccinated in the current programme anyway, we probably should be moving to a situation where we’re clinically-driven.
“If someone is unwell, they should be tested, but for those contacts in the classroom, if they’re not unwell then it makes sense for them to be in school and being educated.”
He added that children are “relatively unaffected” by Covid.
From August 16, children under the age of 18 years old will no longer be required to self-isolate if they are contacted by NHS Test and Trace as a close contact of a positive Covid-19 case.
Instead they will be informed they have been in close contact with a positive case and advised to take a PCR test.
Guidance issued at the end of term states that schools no longer need to perform contact tracing after being notified of a positive case.
Close contacts will now be identified through the Test and Trace programme.
Previously, children were required to isolate for 10 days if another pupil in their bubble – which could be an entire year group – tested positive for Covid-19.